Lady Gaga, Mental Health, and DBT
Updated: Feb 8, 2020
I have been a long-time fan of Lady Gaga. Since she first came on the scene, I have admired her for her creativity, boldness, talent, and openness about her musical process and personal struggles. Last November, I was lucky enough to see Lady Gaga perform live in Las Vegas, where she openly shared about her challenges with fame and loneliness in between belting out jazz melodies. Her willingness to share her inner experiences further deepened my admiration for this musician whose music has accompanied me through so many stages of my own life over the last ten years.
This January, Lady Gaga joined Oprah Winfrey during Oprah’s ‘2020 Vision’ tour, where she and Oprah had a frank conversation about self-care, DBT, and the importance of prioritizing mental health as a medical condition and breaking down stigmas surrounding therapy and the use of psychiatric medication to help support people’s mental well-being. I was captivated and deeply moved by this talk and how truly groundbreaking it is for someone with Lady Gaga’s reach and visibility to speak so openly about her own mental health and personal struggles. Here are some of the moments that most resonated with me:
Her vulnerability - During her talk, Lady Gaga openly shared about her chronic pain, PTSD, sexual assault, past self-harming, and her participation in DBT therapy and use of medication to care for her mental health. Never have I witnessed a person in such a public position speak so openly and vulnerably about their most challenging personal struggles. As a mental health professional, my colleagues and I talk about these sorts of issues all the time. It is not lost on me, though, that these are conversations that many people steer away from in their own lives, for fear of being shunned and shamed by friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances. Here, Lady Gaga is using her platform to smash away at the stigma surrounding getting help for one’s mental health. It is clear throughout her talk that she has embraced her past challenges as a way to both empower herself and become an advocate of raising awareness around mental health issues. Lady Gaga states during her talk that the “most shocking thing she can do is be completely vulnerable with the world.” Indeed, for a performer whose career has often hinged on shocking the world, this may be her bravest, boldest, and most extraordinary move yet.
Her use of DBT - Lady Gaga openly talks about how DBT has helped her heal and reach a place of self-acceptance. As a DBT therapist, I was moved as I listened to her talk about concepts I have shared with so many of my clients over the years. I have been a witness to how this particular form of therapy has helped clients cope effectively and heal from so many past challenges, wounds, and traumas, and it is my hope that Gaga’s talk will only further the awareness of how DBT (and therapy in general) can help with so many difficulties people are working through.
Discusses significance of mental health in schools - Lady Gaga talks about how she wants there to be a mental health professional in each and every school and talks about how mental health should also be included as a class within school curricula. Over my years of practicing individual therapy and facilitating groups, countless people have shared about how they wish DBT and its concepts had been taught to them in some formal or academic setting. They talk about how the concepts they’ve learned in therapy would have helped them in all kinds of situations if only they’d been exposed to these ideas at an early age. During her talk, Lady Gaga vocalized a personal hope of mine - the hope that this is the start of a sea change that will raise awareness and advocacy towards implementing more mental health education and support within schools.
Ultimately, Lady Gaga's interview is one of hope. I hope that Lady Gaga’s talk is the start of an ongoing conversation about the importance of attending to our mental health. I hope that her bravery and vulnerability encourages others in positions of power to open up about their own challenges and difficulties, and that this in turn encourages people to take the first steps towards seeking the help they need. I hope that Lady Gaga’s candor and openness helps people shift away from any feelings of shame they may have surrounding their mental health and begin to safely bring their own experiences into the light - for “shame dies when stories are told in safe places.”
You can check out Lady Gaga and Oprah’s talk by clicking here.